By Brooks Custer
Oxford is known for its hidden gems, culinary experiences, night life and especially its small-town charm. Among its many restaurants and bars, two stand out, checking all the important boxes for a successful Oxford outing.
Whether the customers are visitors or residents, Bar Muse and the Good Day Café provide the experience that keeps guests coming back for more.
In fall 2021, co-owners Ross Hester and Joseph Stinchcomb were inspired after being shown an empty space within the Lyric theater. This inspiration led to the creation of Bar Muse, an intimate craft cocktail bar unlike any other in Oxford. The idea was to create an atmosphere where customers felt comfortable, one that spoke to them and whose energy emanated hospitality.
“We always try to provide that same hospitality and that same environment where you come in, you’re like, ‘yeah, this place is, I like the energy here,’ ” Stinchcomb said.
Using their years of experience and knowledge in the industry, the two set out to achieve their vision of Bar Muse. One of the biggest components of this vision is their focus on using local products and produce to serve not only their customers but also to support their community. Using local produce is one of the reasons they develop seasonal menus of signature and classic cocktails.
“We change the menu every six to eight weeks,” Stinchcomb said. “We try to talk to local farmers and producers to see what they have going on, what’s growing, what makes sense in terms of what we can get in locally.”
The ingredients are largely responsible for their changing menus but so is their love of food, TV shows, HBO, to change, to be weird, to be unique and to be inspired. Their process starts with Stinchcomb inventing and crafting new drinks, which after a year of business have totaled more than 25,000. Then Hester thoughtfully looks at the full cocktail list to choose a creative name that best complements each drink and its ingredients.
“We both really like Arrested Development. Our second menu we were doing the Wire,” Hester said. “It started because we really liked a bunch of HBO shows. Our third menu was kind of like a broader theme and it was like trilogies.”
Since opening its doors, a little over a year ago, Bar Muse has proven itself to be a bar of comfort, community and cocktails. In addition, Hester and Stinchcomb recently opened the Good Day Café, located on the opposite side of the Lyric in the alleyway between the theater and South Depot.
At their new lunch spot can be found the same qualities of Bar Muse with hospitality, attention to detail, comforting energy, local produce, homemade pickles and craft food.
Bar Muse is open Wednesday through Saturday 4 p.m.-CLOSE and Sunday 3 p.m. -8 p.m. For more information visit their website at https://www.barmuseoxford.com/ or their Instagram @barmuse_oxford.
The Good Day Café is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. -4 p.m. For more information visit https://www.gooddayoxford.com/ or, on Instagram, @good_day_oxford.